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Crossing Over: Freespace 2
June 25, 2012 | Justin Ancheta
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Installation

1) First things first: What we need to do is extract the gameís data files from the installer. The easiest way to do that would be to install the game into CrossOver (either by running the GOG installer in the CrossOver software installer, or through a CrossOver CrossTie). Afterward, open the bottle in the Finder using the "Open C: Drive in Finder" feature, and navigate to:

drive_c/Program Files/GOG.com/Freespace 2

Drag the Freespace 2 folder to your desktop Ė it can be any location you wish but we're using the desktop here out of convenience Ė what you should have now is a folder with all of the Freespace 2 game files. Delete the .exe files if you want to save some drive space, or keep your install folder clean.

2) Next, look for two folders, named "data2" and "data3". Drag the contents of the "data3" folder into the "data2" folder, overwriting any files about which you may be asked. Delete any file not ended in .MVE/.mve, and rename the "data2" folder "movies". Drag the "movies" folder into another folder named "data". What you've done here is moved the cutscene and in-game movies to a place where the Freespace 2 OS X app will detect them. If you don't do this, the cutscenes won't play.

3) The next task is to install the game binaries. Thanks to the constant, tireless efforts of the Freespace 2 SCP (Source Code Project) there has been active development of a Mac-native, universal binary that should be compatible with 10.4+. There are several ways that you can install the game once you have the data files. There is a Java-based installer you can use which allows for a network install of all of the game binaries, including the Linux and Windows versions. It also grants you an easy way to get access to the wealth of improvements that the community has made to the game; high resolution sounds, graphical effects and textures are just the tip of the iceberg, in addition to a content-complete full port of the original Freespace. However, as of this writing, the installer doesnít seem to work; it tries to connect but doesnít end up downloading any of the gameís additional files. Iím still not sure if itís an issue with my home network connection, or the community servers. Still, you can download the Mac OS X binary directly from the community forums, as well as the data file enhancements to the gameís graphics.

Installing them takes a bit of effort as you may need to place specific files in certain places within the gameís folder (the improved graphics and texture files all come associated with their own installation instructions, either on the forums or within their respective archives - be sure to pay close attention to where the files need to go), but for the OS X binaries, itís as simple as dropping them in your Freespace 2 root folder. To run the game, all you need is the FS2_Open application; the improved graphics additions aren't necessary, but are highly recommended, if your system can support them. You can choose between the stable and unstable beta/release candidate builds, depending on how daring you're feeling.

4) Weíre still not done yet though. Itís a good idea to download a game launcher, a mini program that puts a clean, friendly UI over the more sophisticated graphics options and esoteric command-line functions that the open source binaries offer. From here you can configure additional graphical options and mod install locations, a necessary piece of info for running mods like the improved media files. wxLauncher works best on 10.5 and above; Soulstorm's venerable FS2_Launcher is for players on older systems.

Performance

In terms of performance, the game runs beautifully on a MacBook running 10.6.8 with a GMA 950, even with some of the extra graphical eye candy enabled. If you're experiencing a black screen on startup, that can be fixed by using your Freespace 2 game launcher to disable some OpenGL features like shader support (which isn't supported on the GMA 950 anyway). The only remaining niggle seems to be with controls - mouse controls seem to lag somewhat, despite my efforts to solve this with the in-game options. Iíve been trying to use my copy of USB Overdrive to ameliorate this through the use of finer-grained sensitivity and acceleration options for the mouse but I havenít had a huge amount of luck so far. Iím not sure if this is just because my overall system is slow, or if itís because I simply donít have a (good enough) joystick. Iím still on the hunt for a decently priced, good quality USB joystick, and hopefully Iíll be able to use that to resolve my control issues. In the meantime however, the game is perfectly playable using a mouse and keyboard combination.

As a little postscript, I had the chance to test out this game with a brand spanking new, freshly acquired Logitech Extreme 3D Pro - and the game controls work beautifully while in use. My aging Saitek Cyborg 3D however, fared less well. I experience some axial control issues in the game, likely due to that joystick being so old and loose. But for anyone with a new joystick -- or looking for an excuse to get one -- Freespace 2 is an excellent game.

Disclaimer: Justin Ancheta is a beta tester and volunteer advocate for Codeweavers, and maintains both a tutorial for getting GOG games to run on Mac OS X, and a list of games he has personally tested to work on Mac OS X through CrossOver, Wineskin, and open source ports.



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